This video is a series of interviews with former and current Chef Solutions employees, talking about their experiences working for the company and the aftermath of the failed union organizing drive. Some interviews are in Spanish.
Chef Solutions is an industrial bakery in North Haven, CT. Owned by Lufthansa, producing bread and cookie dough for Subway Sandwiches and Mrs. Fields' Cookies, employing about 200 workers.
Workforce was mostly African-American in the late '80's, wages were low, so workers tried to organize a union. Most of the union supporters were let go, and a mostly female, Latina workforce was hired to replace them.
Since many of the Latina workers didn't have legal immigration status, management began taking money out of people's checks to purportedly obtain Green Cards. Nobody ever received their green card, but the extortion went on for years.
More egregious abuses of workers' rights occurred. Workers reported being excluded from promotions on account of race, and favoritism was rampant.
Managers systematically harassed and sexually abused some workers, telling women that they would have to meet their supervisor at a hotel and sleep with them to pick up their check: basically coerced rape.
Finally, workers turned to the UAW to try and organize a union in their workplace, to end the extortion and sexual abuse. Management again responded by firing several workers, including Jeanelle Samuels and Lee Mabry, both long-time employees. Other workers were threatened and harassed, management threatened to close the plant, and workers had tires punctured in the parking lot. One ex-employee was threatened at gunpoint.
The National Labor Relations Commission and the Equal Opportunity Commission upheld the charges and forced several of the most abusive managers out. But the company unleashed an anti-union campaign of threats and terror that included physical threats, surveillance cameras in the workplace, threats to close the factory.
Intimidated and fearful of losing their jobs, workers lost the union election for a second time. With the help of the UAW, workers pressed their cause, garnering support from politicians and other labor supporters. Lufthansa airlines, Subway, and Boston Market, another client, all received notice of what their supplier/subsidiary was doing to its' workers.